Historic flooding and above-normal precipitation can have a major impact on the mosquito population. With that in mind, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is encouraging horse owners to visit with their veterinarian about vaccinating their horses against mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“All of this precipitation around the state will likely mean higher levels of mosquito activity,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes. “Higher numbers of mosquitoes don’t always correlate with higher incidence of disease, but it’s a possibility that we can prepare for.”

Hughes said typically Nebraska sees the most WNV cases in horses in August, so now is a good time for horse owners to consider vaccination. Mosquito season often runs through October.

“The vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in horses is highly effective and should be administered at least three weeks prior to exposure to mosquitoes carrying WNV,” said Hughes. “Vaccination helps prevent horses from contracting the virus, and if they do get it, improve their chances of survival.”

Horse owners are also encouraged to remove mosquito breeding points by eliminating any pools of standing water. If possible, animals also should be moved indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Other preventative measures include: avoid turning on lights inside the stable during evening and overnight; remove birds that are in, or close to, the stable; and use mosquito repellants.

Clinical symptoms in WNV-infected horses may include a loss of appetite, depression, lethargy/drowsiness, muscle twitching, lack of coordination, weakness of the limbs or partial paralysis.

More information on WNV can be found at www.nda.nebraska.gov. Search for West Nile Virus. To report suspected cases of WNV, contact a local veterinarian, NDA at (402) 471-2351, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS/Veterinary Services at (402) 434-2300.